New Alzheimer’s Researchers Give Hope for the Future
While the Alzheimer’s Association grants program is international, we are lucky to have several California researchers who have received our funding. Many are new investigators. Their initial Alzheimer’s Association grant helps launch their independent research careers. Learn more about their projects.
Anne Berry, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Determining the influence of tau pathology on decision making
Dr. Berry and colleagues will determine whether changes in tau and dopamine correlate with the ability to perform common financial tasks such as using a reviewing a bank statement. They are looking at subtle brain changes that occur before someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment.
The study findings may help identify individuals at risk for poor decision making. This could lead to the design of education and support tools for older adults with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, to help them stay independent.
Niraj Shanbhag, M.D., Ph.D.
Clinical Fellow, UC San Francisco School of Medicine, Department of Neurology
The role of BRCA1 in Alzheimer’s pathogenesis
A major focus of Alzheimer’s research is determining which genetic factors may increase the risk for disease. Recent evidence suggests that accumulation of damage to an individual’s DNA (genetic code) may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Shanbhag and his colleagues recently found that Alzheimer’s-like mice develop a particularly severe form of DNA damage called “double-strand breaks” in their brain cells. The mice also show decreased levels of a protein known as breast cancer type 1 (BRCA1) in the brain. This protein can repair double strand breaks in DNA.
Dr. Shanbhag’s research could reveal a genetic mechanism that may increase Alzheimer’s risk. Preventing DNA damage or promoting its repair could lead to the development of therapies to slow or halt Alzheimer’s disease.
Evan Miller, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berkeley
Optical tools to interrogate neuronal physiology in Alzheimer’s disease
Nerve cells in the brain use electrical signals to communicate across complex networks. In Alzheimer’s disease, electrical activity can become abnormal and lead to seizures and other harmful events. It has been difficult to identify how this dysfunction occurs.
One barrier is the lack of sensitive tools for recording and measuring electrical activity in nerve cells. With this grant, Dr. Miller and colleagues plan to test a novel method for visualizing and measuring changes in nerve cell electrical signals.
The results could show how nerve cell activity becomes abnormal in Alzheimer’s and how the disease progresses. This research could also lead to novel methods for diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s.
Lindsay Hohsfield, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Irvine
Manipulating microglia to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
We were moved by Lindsay’s presentation at the Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit earlier this year. At the age of 18, she decided to become an Alzheimer’s researcher.
One of the features of Alzheimer’s disease is inflammation in the brain. Microglia are immune cells that control brain inflammation and clear toxic proteins such as beta-amyloid and abnormal tau. When microglia become over-activated, this function may be impaired.
Dr. Hohsfield and colleagues have used a drug that depletes the brain of over-activated microglia. When the drug is removed, new microglia are generated that appear to have more neuroprotective properties. They will repeat this method and determine if it can help prevent brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
This research could shed new light on the role of microglia in Alzheimer’s and explore the effectiveness of a potential treatment to reduce inflammation in the brain. These findings could lead to therapies that regulate microglia function to help slow or prevent disease progression.
We are committed to funding research
The Alzheimer’s Association funds independent investigators worldwide through our International Research Grants Program. Since awarding our first grants in 1982, we have grown into the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. Over the life of our grants program, we have invested over $405 million in more than 2,600 scientific investigations.